As a swimmer the lanes of the pool represent your territory, the place you would either win or lose based on how quickly you moved through. Approximately six feet across and in about eighty feet long (25 meters); there is plenty of space in the lane. You can execute any of the basic strokes- freestyle ( or the crawl), the breast stroke, the back stroke or the ominous butterfly stroke with space to spare. Sometimes it feels like there is too much space and too far to go, too fast, but it is your lane to do with what you want.
While you are in your lane you will hear various things- words of encouragement, tips for your skill improvement or even the collective cheers of all on the pool deck. As you dip your head under the water, however, the noises are muted. You feel more than you hear; your arms and legs moving in a synchronized way, pushing through the water. You see the end and you steadily and powerfully move toward it. The swimmer next to you glances over sees you are a bit ahead and speeds up. You can chose to exhaust yourself playing that game or just stay in your lane and play your game.
In teaching, as in competetive sports, there are those who regularly size each other up. They look at other teachers and place them as better or worse- stronger or weaker- current or old school. When some new/old idea comes up, there are joiners and resisters. The joiners band together and the resisters band together because there is comfort in simlilar mindsets. We develop our skills over time and are content with the familar. The challenge becomes when the dynamics of the kids we teach changes, we must grow and adapt and that can be hard.
When we discover a strategy or activity or program that has had a great impact – academic or otherwise and we want to share it with that highly skilled, highly educated, long time teaching group of people who are satisfied with what they are already doing. They see change as “one more thing.” They see you as a ‘know it all.’ But can’t we have a conversation? Deep thoughtful discussions are fuel for good practice. We are given WHAT to teach, but the whys and the hows are left to us.
So why “Stay in Your Lane?” Shouldn’t we be sharing? Shouldn’t we be collaboating? It is what we ask students to do every day. We are ultimately in charge of keeping ourselves moving forward. Focusing on the end result. We might contemplate a coaching session here or there, we might reluctanly attend a Professional Development and consider using something from it in our classroom. We might. Ultimately, we are going to do what we feel most comfortable with, not necessarily what is the most effective. Effecting change starts small. You see a swimmer who is making great improvements on their butterfy time. You are curious. You notice have a different rhythm to their kick. You watch and mimic. Other techniques become transparent. You want that. They did not tell you to change your kick, you noticed and asked. You make the little change and you see new results, but that swimmer never left her lane. A great satisfaction comes from noticing and noting what is going on in other lanes, but for any one to join the swim, we must first stay in our lane.